Nov. 3, 2011
Every Thursday, UCLABruins.com will sit down with a member of the women's volleyball team. This week, we talk with sophomore Madie Smith, who discusses the influence her family has had on her athletic career, switching from setter to defensive specialist and the difference between playing on Sport Court and hardwood.
UCLABruins.com: How excited are you for your birthday on Saturday?
Madie Smith: I'm excited to turn 20 because 19 sounds young. Once you say you're 20, you sound a little older.
.com: You are the 10th member of your family to attend UCLA. Was it all but certain that this is where you were going to go?
MS: No. I was committed to University of San Diego early in my senior year. I wanted to be the one that got away from UCLA, but Mike (Sealy) offered me late my senior year and I just realized that I'd rather be part of a bigger school. Deep down there was always that feeling that I wanted to continue that UCLA legacy. I wasn't certain about USD. I loved the location. The school is very pretty. But once I got offered here I wanted to continue the legacy. Nobody in my family pressured me on where to go. They just told me to choose where to go that would make me happy and I'm happy here.
.com: What guidance have your Bruin volleyball playing sisters, Morgan (2002-03) and Jordan (2005-06), given you about playing volleyball and going to school at UCLA?
MS: Now that I've switched from setter to defensive specialist, Jordan has really helped me focus on serve/receive and all that stuff. Sometimes during the summer we'll go in a gym and work, and she knows exactly the way UCLA plays so she'll help me with that. She's really helped me to understand the different defensive techniques since I'm new to the position. I was frustrated at first, but she's definitely helped me with that. Both of them, and my brother Adam, have definitely helped me with the social aspect of going to UCLA. I'm really close with all of them, so we tell each other everything. Jordan was a sociology major, so when it comes to classes and teachers she has my back and tells me what to take during which quarter. It's definitely been an advantage for me that they have gone here.
.com: Was sports a big part of your childhood growing up?
MS: It was huge. My parents didn't play at big time schools, but they did play sports growing up. My dad played basketball for fun and my mom played volleyball in junior high. But sports definitely runs in the family. My grandpa played football at Ohio State. And with my sisters, when one of them started playing a certain sport we'd all play that sport. So it went from soccer to basketball and then volleyball was the final one. We just all had that in common.
.com: When and why did you start playing volleyball?
MS: I started because my sisters did. I liked soccer and I liked basketball, but when volleyball came I loved playing it. I loved every day just going to club practice and high school. I loved being able to play with my sisters. My first actual game was when I was 11.
.com: What part of your game do you feel you need to work the most on?
MS: Serve/receive, for sure. That's my #1. I'm slowly getting better at it. Transition from setter to defensive specialist was definitely hard for me at first, but I've always loved defense.
.com: How did you become a member of "The Squad?"
MS: It was actually really random. We were at LMU and we were on the bench, and it was either Priscilla (Duke-Ezeji) or Nikki (Casale), one of them said something about `Squad' and we just kept saying `Squad' and we randomly starting doing a dance. We just have this connection and it kind of clicked together and from then on we've been The Squad.
.com: What is your favorite thing about being a member of "The Squad?"
MS: Being able to cheer for the girls on the court and be positive has really created a new aspect of being on the bench. It is really fun and exciting and I really enjoy it.
.com: What do you enjoy the most about playing volleyball?
MS: The team aspect. I like how even outside of volleyball we are there for each other. It's nice that even when you are away from your actual family you still have more sisters to be with.
.com: What has been your most exciting moment on the volleyball court?
MS: The Stanford match last year. That was such an amazing feeling. And this year, the Cal and Stanford games at home. I think that made us believe that we have a special team and that we can be that good.
.com: Last year you subbed in at setter for an injured Lauren Van Orden during the Arizona weekend. What was that experience like?
MS: That whole week there were a couple of us who were competing and Mike wanted to see who could set. I think it might have been the practice the day before we left that he let me know that I was going to be setting. It was funny because I had just moved to defensive specialist, so I hadn't been setting. But I always have that feeling inside of me that if need be I can go in there and set. I have been playing volleyball for so many years and I had the mindset of going in there and just doing what I needed to do. Once I touched the ball a couple times that feeling came back.
.com: If you didn't play volleyball, what sport would you play?
MS: Soccer. There is a lot of running so you'll stay in shape all the time. I enjoyed playing it. I enjoy watching it.
.com: Go through your pre-game routine.
MS: I like to go back to my room and sleep after serve and pass. Then usually me and Meg or someone will go to Ackerman and we'll get some waters and maybe, and I don't know if Sealy wants to hear this, but some candy to keep us hyped up. There is some dancing that goes in the locker room before we take the court for warm-ups. But for me there is no specific thing, like I need to do my hair this way.
.com: What other UCLA athletic events do you like to attend?
MS: The men's basketball games are really fun. I only got to go to a couple last year, but those are definitely exciting. I love football games. That's probably my #1. I like soccer games. Those are always fun to go to. And water polo too. Obviously men's volleyball also.
.com: What would you rather play on? Sport Court or hardwood?
MS: It's funny, because when I first came here I was not used to Sport Court. I hated it because I'm so used to playing on the wood. In terms of diving for balls, Sport Court stops you. You don't go very far when you dive. So I like wood in that aspect because you can slide more. You get floor burns on either of them though and I hate those.
.com: If you could trade places for a day with a celebrity, who would it be?
MS: I love Jennifer Aniston. I love all her movies. I love everything about her. I particularly liked her in "Friends." That's my favorite show, so I would love to do a day on that set even though it's not on the air anymore.
.com: If you could travel anywhere around the world, where would it be?
MS: I've never been out of the country. I'm 25 percent Italian, so I'd love to go to Italy. That would be my first place to go.
.com: If you could have one super power, what would it be?
MS: I would like to snap my fingers and go anywhere. I always for example say `I wish I could just snap my fingers and be in my room.' Say it's a long day after practice and I don't want to walk all the way to Saxon, I just snap my fingers and I'll be there.
.com: Who is your favorite professional athlete?
MS: Kerri Walsh. I have loved watching her play. Her and Misty May, but I really like Kerri. I love her attitude and motivation. I loved watching both of them in the Olympics. They have a great team camaraderie.
.com: What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
MS: Since I've gotten to college, it's just sleeping. I like to get as much as sleep as I can get. I also like going to the beach, hanging out with friends and going to church.
.com: What is your biggest fear?
MS: It's sad to say, but my biggest fear is my dad not being at my wedding. I'm a daddy's girl, so him not being there would be a big upset for me.
.com: Who is the team class clown?
MS: It was Nikki before Priscilla came, but both of them together are just the biggest class clowns you could get. They are both hilarious. They are dancing before practice, during practice, after practice, outside of the court. If you need a laugh, then you'll get it from both of them.
.com: What is your favorite website?
MS: Facebook. I'm on it for hours and I don't even mean to. It's like a natural habit now. You go on your computer and the first thing you do is open up Facebook. It's bad.
.com: Who has been the most influential person/people in your life?
MS: My parents obviously. But also my brother has been a big influence in my life. There are a lot of things he's been through and to see him overcome all his struggles has been amazing. I really look up to him and admire him for that.
Previous Thursdays With ...
Lauren Van Orden